5 great mysteries in the handset business

20 Oct 2015

Android and iOS have dominated the mobile business for a few years. The development has been not that difficult to predict. Apple started the touch screen, mobile app and real mobile internet business and basically all development has been a result of that. Android meanwhile won the mainstream. But there some mysterious things in the business that are really hard to explain or comprehend the business reasoning behind them.

Here are five mysteries that are hard to understand or explain:

1. No physical keyboard in handsets. Nokia Communicator was the first real smart phone for business use and it had a QWERTY keyboard. It started a series of Nokia business phones that all had a keyboard. Blackberry has had its keyboard, but since iPhone and Android phones emerged, physical keyboards have disappeared. Blackberry has them, but it has had its other issues. It is hard to understand, why no one has tried to make good Android phones with a keyboard, when dozens of companies make almost similar looking phones. Many users still miss keyboards and feel it easier to type on them. Why, for example, hasn’t Microsoft done it for its Lumia smarthones, when it also offers Office for them?

2. One more mobile operating system is needed. Companies are still trying to create new mobile operating systems. Samsung, Mozilla and some carriers had their own plans, but we haven’t seen too many of those recently. Blackberry had a very long and desperate battle until it finally decided to make an Android phone. Microsoft still tries to keep Windows for phones alive. It can have its strategic reasons to offer Windows to all devices, but also its mobile success depends on success of its apps and enterprise solutions in Android and iOS. And Jolla tries to push Sailfish and actually it now is its main business case, not hardware anymore. And then there are other Linux based exercises. Already the PC world taught that there is no room for many operating systems and in mobile it is even harder. Or the new operating system should be a game changer as iOS was.

3. Manufacturer’s own software on Android. Especially Samsung but also some other manufacturers have wanted to make their own software, app stores and user experience in Android phones. Of course, they want to be different from the competition and offer value added components, but users don’t really love these components that more often make phone more difficult to use and some things even incompatible with other Android devices. The fact is also that hardware companies are not great to make software.

4. HTML5 will prevail over native apps. This has been talked already 3 or 4 years that soon HTML5 apps come and make native apps useless. And there are a few nice HTML5 apps, for example, Financial Times made one. But in most of cases native apps can offer much better user experience. Maybe HTML5 is suitable if you just want to expand your web services to mobile, and mobile is not in the core of your business.

5. Mobile apps are a great startup business opportunity. There are a few companies that only offer mobile apps and have a big business, for example, mobile game companies. But as a whole it is very tough market and from millions of apps only a dozen or so make significant money. But mobile and mobility are becoming an important part of all business and mobile apps are very important for many companies, a mobile strategy almost for any company soon. It is important we don’t mix stand alone mobile app business and mobility or mobile component (e.g. Uber, Square or airbnb) in a larger strategy.

It is always a great question in business - how different must you be and in which things it is better to stay in the mainstream? But when I think about the mysteries listed above, it also leads one to think why no one is trying to utilize some opportunities (keyboard), when some try to fight against the windmills (operating systems)? There might be good explanations or answers to these dilemmas, if someone has good answers, please tweet them to me (@jahven on Twitter).

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